Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic tourism needed to take center stage, the first-ever hybrid African Travel and Tourism Summit heard this week. South African Tourism acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini told the two-day conference that domestic tourism had to play a significant role in reviving the sector, which was the hardest hit in the country because of lockdown restrictions.
The summit, held in Johannesburg, Durban and Lagos, discussed how tourism in Africa could be resuscitated during the pandemic that has seen the continent lose trillions in revenue. It unpacked four main themes, including best practice for Brand Africa, sectoral transformation, leisure and business opportunities, and strengthening and enabling economic capabilities.
Dlamini praised tourism SMMEs for being versatile. “I find that SMEs have the flexibility to adjust quickly and larger corporations across the globe and continent will do well to learn from what these small businesses had to say (during SMME Day),” she said. Domestic tourism could no longer be just an alternative, but it had to be the anchor for the tourism sector,” Dlamini said.
“With this crisis, we found ourselves not ready for domestic tourism and realised that we can’t let this crisis go to waste,” she said. “It became very important to look at national associations and see how we can focus on having meetings within South Africa. This makes the… industry survive, enabling venues themselves to sustain their businesses,” she also said.
Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told the summit that statistics confirmed how badly the sector had suffered. But she said it was not all bad news.
“According to pre-Covid-19 statistics, the World Travel and Tourism Council indicates that tourism in Africa generated approximately R3-trillion, accounting for 6.9% of Africa’s GDP and supported 24.7 million jobs,” the minister said. “The African Development Bank indicated in its African economic outlook that the African GDP, which contracted by 2.1%, is projected to grow by 3.4% this year. “Tourism-dependent economies are projected to recover from an 11.5% GDP decline in 2020 to a 6.2% growth in 2021,” she also said.
Sisulu said that South Africa needed to “reset” the tourism sector on the continent. “We are ready to take our fair share of the world tourism organisation estimate that tourism in Africa could more than double to 134 million tourists in 2030 as opposed to 50 million in 2010.” She said that reviving tourism in Africa would not be easy and would require the continent to work as a united front.